At the start of every MLB season, baseball writers and bloggers of all stripes produce lists of the best players in the game, whether it’s to help people select players for their fantasy league or simply to start debates. However, the average fan doesn’t pay much attention to such analyses. They like who they like, and they express their opinions in dollars by buying their favorite players’ jerseys.
So what players are most popular with fans as the 2014 season gets underway? Well, if you take a look at the list of top-selling player jerseys from October 31, 2013, and March 30, 2014, you’ll find out…
Yankees fans are always happy to welcome a defector from the Red Sox (such as Jacoby Ellsbury, here) by shelling out some bucks for his jersey, if for no other reason than to rub in in the faces of the folks in Boston.
20. Jacoby Ellsbury (New York Yankees)
Yu Darvish isn't just popular with Rangers fans, who like him because he's awesome. He's also popular with Japanese baseball fans everywhere—you know, because he's Japanese.
19. Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers)
If you put on a display of utter pitching dominance while helping your team complete one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in baseball history, getting the final outs of the World Series, then yes, people will buy your jersey.
18. Koji Uehara (Boston Red Sox)
What happens when you're an All-Star pitcher who is one of the most popular players on a team that went to the World Series, and said team recently started wearing a sharp new third jersey? Your jersey cracks the top 20.
17. Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals)
If you're a major star and you get traded to a new team, chances are sales of your jersey are going to spike.
16. Prince Fielder (Texas Rangers)
Unfortunately, the only Matt Harvey jerseys anyone is going to see at Citi Field this year are the ones purchased by Mets fans in the offseason. After an absolutely brilliant start to his rookie season, Harvey suffered an elbow injury in August that required Tommy John surgery, knocking him out until next year.
15. Matt Harvey (New York Mets)
This one is a bit surprising. I would have thought a 23-year-old kid who led the American League in WAR his first two seasons and finished second in MVP voting both times would be a little higher on the list. However, I guess some Angels fans are still buying Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton jerseys.
14. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
Here's another one that seems a little surprising at first. You might expect the guy who just won back-to-back AL MVP awards and just got rewarded with the biggest contract in the history of baseball to be a little higher on the list. However, he's been in Detroit for a while now, so a lot of people already have his jersey.
13. Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
Bryce Harper is a phenomenal talent, but, unlike Mike Trout, we're all still waiting for his true "breakout" season—not that you'd know it judging by his jersey sales.
12. Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals)
Yasiel Puig still has some maturing to do if he's going to maximize his abundant potential. (Actually, lots of maturing.) Even still, at times last year this kid was electric, and Dodgers fans are crazy about him. So here we are.
11. Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Speaking of kids with electric talent, how about Manny Machado? Fans in Baltimore are in love with this kid, and for good reason. He's a wizard at the hot corner and is going to be a superstar. Let's hope he's back on the diamond soon.
10. Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles)
Like I said, when superstars switch teams, their jersey sales spike. And former Yankee-turned-Mariner Robinson Cano is most definitely a superstar.
9. Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners)
David Wright is a bit of a surprise here in the top 10. Obviously he's one of the game's best third baseman, so he's certainly deserving. It's just that he's been around for a long time now, and the Mets are still terrible. So it's strange that everyone is so eager to buy David Wright jerseys now.
8. David Wright (New York Mets)
Buster Posey is the best-hitting catcher in baseball, and Giants fans are pretty rabid right now, having been treated to two World Series Championships over the last four years. This one is no surprise.
7. Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)
Andrew McCutchen has been one of the most dynamic and exciting (and all-around best) players in baseball for several years now. However, it's only now, after leading the Pirates to their first winning season and playoff appearance in two decades, that he's finally become a true superstar in Pittsburgh.
6. Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and, if things keep going the way they have been, he could very well wind up among the best pitchers of all time. He's already the richest. Of course his jersey is in the top five.
5. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)
There are a number of factors that explain Molina's jersey sales taking the four spot. For starters, over the last several years, it's become more and more clear that this guy is probably one of the three or four best defensive catchers ever. Add to that his improved offensive abilities, his status as favorite player in baseball-mad St. Louis, three straight trips to the NLCS (including two trips to the World Series with one win), and the fact that the Cardinals unveiled this fantastic third jersey last year, and you've got the perfect recipe for big sales.
4. Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals)
Derek Jeter has been the most popular Yankee since led the team to a World Series championship in his sophomore season. Now that the 39-year-old has announced that he'll retire after the 2014 season, it's no surprise that sales of his jersey have spiked.
3. Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
The best way to improve merchandise sales is to win the World Series. Thus, it's no surprise that the two top selling jerseys on this list belong to members of the Boston Red Sox...
2. Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox)
Last year, Big Papi hit .309/.395/.557 with 30 home runs and a WAR of 4.4, while also inspiring the entire city of Boston with his moving speech after the Boston Marathon bombing. Then he basically doubled all those stats in the World Series to lead the Red Sox to a win over the Cardinals in six games. So yeah, petty much anyone in Boston who didn't already have a #34 Ortiz jersey certainly does now.